Expect Everything on Law & Order: SVU to Change by Year's End

Ileane Rudolph
Law & Order: SVU
Jason Bell/NBC

Fall TV Preview 2015If last season’s theme on Law & Order: SVU was family, this season’s is transition, executive producer Warren Leight says. “My goal at the end of the year is to have nobody in the same place they started.”

First, there’s a manpower shortage at the precinct as the detectives deal with the departure of trusted colleague Nick Amaro (Danny Pino). “That loss threw everything out of balance in the squad,” Leight says. “They don’t have the guys they need to cover all the bases when they have to track a possible serial killer in the opening episode.”

RELATED: First Look Photo: Law & Order Bags a Creepy Case

Amaro’s departure also hits the unit personally, with Sgt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) losing a confidante and loving babysitter for her toddler son, Noah, and Det. Amanda Rollins’s (Kelli Giddish) secret affair with her fellow detective (which fans dubbed “Rollaro”) having ceased. And Rollins could soon have her hands full with a game changer that may or may not concern Amaro. (Hint: The actress is pregnant with her first child.) While not revealing whether art will imitate life, Leight says, “either way it’s a challenge for us.”

There’s no time to mourn or celebrate, however. In the two-hour season premiere, Benson and her team go after one particularly creepy killer. For some psychological profiling tips, Rollins turns to sociopath Dr. Greg Yates (The Walking Dead’s Dallas Roberts), who was caught during last year’s Chicago P.D./SVU late-season crossover. The new murderer, whom Yates may be acquainted with, is “a wealthy, prestigious New Yorker who has the amazing ability to get away with his crimes,” says Leight. Expect grisly finds, including a mummy entombed in a wall and other Robert Durst–like oddities. “It’s the most bizarre episode we’ve done since I got here,” Leight says.

RELATED: Visit Our Fall Preview Page to Check Out New and Returning Shows

Because this show is not one to ever let a hot-topic headline go unscripted, the second episode depicts the ultimate transition: The unit gets involved when a transgender teen is brutally attacked by classmates. “These kids are not evil incarnate,” Leight explains. “As their principal says, ‘We’re working on not bullying and on accepting homosexuality, but this is a far step for inner-city high school kids.’”

Law & Order: SVU, returns Wednesday, Sept. 23, 9/8c, NBC